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October 15, 2009

THE GOOD WE DO: NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION RECOGNIZES ATTORNEYS FOR PRO BONO SERVICE

Paramus Attorney Donates Legal Services to Help the Chronically Ill with Estate Planning Needs

To commemorate the first annual Pro Bono Week (October 25-31), the New York State Bar Association has launched a new campaign called The Good We Do to recognize the significant contributions made by the scores of attorneys across the state who donate their time, services and expertise to meet the ever-growing legal needs of low-income people and others who have been hard hit by the economic downturn.  Among the attorneys being singled out by the Association is Marty Shenkman of Paramus, New Jersey.

An experienced attorney with years of experience in Estate Planning, Shenkman was faced with the daunting process of revising his personal estate plan when his wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2006.  Shenkman was surprised to discover the lack of information on estate planning for the 90 million people living with chronic illnesses. He decided to devote his time to help them and their families understand the importance of planning as well as how to plan.

 For the past three years, he has donated hundreds of pro bono hours, providing legal advice on wills, health care proxies, and power of attorney forms. He lectures frequently, offering much needed -
and much appreciated - guidance on estate planning. One lecture attendee wrote, "I found your talk last night very helpful. I have a brother-in-law who, imminently, will lose his battle with a chronic illness. Coupled with your discussion, it's made me think a lot about planning in the event something like this happens to me or my wife."

Joyce Nelson, president and CEO of the National MS Society said, "The National MS Society is a volunteer-driven organization and we depend heavily on individuals such as Marty Shenkman who can volunteer a unique expertise to move us closer to a world free of multiple sclerosis. His legal insights have encouraged people impacted by MS to think outside the box helping them to move forward with their lives while likewise helping us to end MS."

In Shenkman's words, "This has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Part of why we become lawyers is to help and make a contribution to society, and there are endless opportunities to help. It feels good to do good."

New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City), said, "Increasingly, more and more New Yorkers and worthy non-profit organizations, are finding it harder to keep their heads above water as they try to navigate our legal system.  Whether in planning for incapacity, foreclosure cases, or child custody cases, every New Yorker should have equal access to justice.  The State Bar is proud to salute attorneys, like Marty Shenkman, who truly live the words, and justice for all."

One of Shenkman's goals is to disseminate information to the public, particularly charitable donors, about chronic illnesses. He has written 34 legal books, with a recent emphasis on planning and charitable giving. All royalties of his most recent book, "Estate Planning for People with a Chronic Condition or Disability," are going to charity. The National MS Society gives copies of the book, "Funding the Cure," to potential donors. His next project is a book covering estate planning and charitable giving for families of those with Parkinson's disease, to be distributed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

A graduate of Fordham Law School, Shenkman received his undergraduate degree from the Wharton School of Business and an MBA from the University of Michigan. A 23-year member of the New York State Bar, he is a member of the Business Law, Trusts and Estates, and Tax sections.

Founded in 1876, the 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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